From selling Apple products to creating iOS apps: Ashby’s story

Ashby worked at the Apple Store for two years after high school, only to discover how passionate she was about building her own apps. She looked into a traditional CS degree, but landed on The Iron Yard as her path to becoming a junior developer. Today, she works at Possible Mobile and is doing exactly what she dreamed of doing: creating apps as an iOS Developer. Here’s a bit more of Ashby’s story. 

Tell us how you became interested in The Iron Yard.

Ashby-Thornwell-The-Iron-YardAfter high school, I was working in retail at Apple for about two years. I became really interested in building iOS apps. Apple has a policy that if you’re an employee, you can’t release apps from the App Store, because if you were to recommend a customer to download your app that could reflect badly on Apple. I was looking at different options – everything from getting a traditional CS degree to looking at a lot of code schools. I started looking at sites and building apps from tutorials. I realized that’s what I wanted to do full-time, so I quit Apple and signed up for The Iron Yard.

What do you remember about your 12-week experience in class?

My class at the Iron Yard was the first iOS course. It was Jo’s first class teaching, so it was pretty new for everyone, which was cool because we were all doing this thing together. It was slightly overwhelming for everybody, but it was ok because we were all nervous. At first I was pretty overwhelmed with the pace of the class, but I got used to it.

I ended up building a barbecue app for my final project. It’s a barbecue location app for Atlanta, and it was the first app I published in the App Store. On Demo Day, I actually had someone come up afterwards, he was part of some sort of barbecue judging for Atlanta, and he was like, “that is so cool.”

Right as my class was about to graduate, Apple released Swift. Everyone was freaking out because we just spent the last three months focusing on Objective-C. It ended up working out really well because by then I knew enough to learn Swift on my own and it wasn’t too hard.

What happened after you graduated?

When I first graduated from The Iron Yard, I took on a few contracts through a freelancer website, which was a learning experience for me. It was hard to find good contracts because I was so new to development. But after awhile, I ended up finding a job at an agency. They hired me as their only iOS developer and expected a lot right off the bat. They knew I was a junior [developer] coming in, and I only had a few months of experience. It was hard to be on my own, though. Finally, I ended up at this job I have now with Possible Mobile, and they’re amazing. The projects I have gotten to work on are insane. I’ve worked on PGA championships. I’ve worked on the NBA.

What does your day-to day-look like in your current job?

I come in at about 9am and I finish my tickets up from the day before. We have a standup every day. It’s very developer-focused where I work. We’re all developers except for our project manager and accountant manager (who make sure you’re on track). We have really cool things called architecture planning sessions. Before you even start a feature, you have planned it out with an iOS architect who wants you to do things a certain way. Obviously, you can disagree or agree with them and vocalize why you feel that way. It’s awesome, especially when you’re new to development. If you’re not sure how they do something you have a really good resource to help you.

Looking ahead, what are your dreams for where your career is going to go next?

I want to become a senior developer one day, and pour into juniors the way I’ve been poured into the last year with unbelievable support and knowledge. I want to be really involved in the tech community for women.

I’ve felt some sexism before, especially in interviews. My company now is great. I am the only female at my office, but all the guys are all wonderful. It’s not an issue where I work, but it’s been an issue in the past for me and I know for a lot of other women developers it’s tough. I really want to do something about that.

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